MADRID -- Tens of thousands of Spaniards and Portuguese rallied
in the streets of their countries' capitals Saturday to protest enduring
deep economic pain from austerity measure, and the demonstration in
Madrid turned violent after Spaniards enraged over a long-lasting
recession and sky-high unemployment clashed with riot police for the
third time in less than a week near Parliament.
violence came after thousands of Spaniards who had marched close to the
Parliament building in downtown Madrid protested peacefully for hours.
Police with batons later moved in just before midnight to clear out
those who remained late because no permission had been obtained from
authorities to hold the demonstration.
Some protesters responded
by throwing bottles and rocks. An Associated Press photographer saw
police severely beat one protester who was taken away in an ambulance.
state TV said early Sunday that two people were hurt and 12 detained
near the barricades erected in downtown Madrid to shield the Parliament
building. Television images showed police charging protesters and
hitting them with their batons, but the violence did not appear as
severe as a protest on Tuesday when 38 people were arrested and 64
Earlier, the boisterous crowds let off ear-splitting
whistles and yelled "Fire them, fire them!" -- referring to the
conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and venting
their anger against tax hikes, government spending cuts and the highest
unemployment rate among the 17 nations that use the euro currency.
Friday, Rajoy's administration presented a 2013 draft budget that will
cut overall spending by $51.7 billion, freezing the salaries of public
workers, cutting spending for unemployment benefits and even reducing
spending for Spain's royal family next year by 4 percent.
Rodriguez, a 24-year-old student doing a master's in agricultural
development in Denmark, said the austerity measures and bad economy mean
most of his friends in Spain are unemployed or doing work they didn't
He plans to work abroad after graduating and doubts he
will put his education to use in Spain until he is at least 35 or 40,
"I would love to work here, but there is nothing for me
here," Rodriguez said. "By the time the economy improves it will be too
late. I will be settled somewhere else with a family. One of the
disasters in Spain is they spent so much to educate me and so many
others and they will lose us."
Madrid authorities put the number
of protesters at 4,500 -- though demonstrators said the crowd was
larger. In neighboring Portugal, tens of thousands took to the streets
of Lisbon Saturday afternoon to peacefully protest against even deeper
austerity cutbacks than Spain has imposed.
Retired banker Antonio
Trinidade said the budget cuts Portugal is locked into in return for
the nation's $101 billion bailout are
making the country's economy
the worst he has seen in his lifetime. His pension has been cut, and he
said countless young Portuguese are increasingly heading abroad because
they can't make a living at home.
"The government and the troika
controlling what we do because of the bailout just want to cut more and
more and rob from us," Trinidade said, referring to the troika of
creditors -- the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the
International Monetary Fund. "The young don't have any future, and the
country is on the edge of an abyss. I'm getting toward the end
of my life, but these people in their 20s or 30s don't have jobs, or a future."
Spain, Rajoy has an absolute majority and has pushed through waves of
austerity measures over the last nine months -- trying to prevent Spain
from being forced into the same kind of bailouts taken by Portugal,
Ireland and Greece. But the country has an unemployment rate of nearly
25 percent, and the jobless rate is more than 50 percent for those under
Investors worried about Spain's economic viability have
forced up the interest rate they are willing to pay to buy Spanish
bonds. The country's banks hurting from a property boom that went bust
are set to get help soon from
a $129 billion financial lifeline from
the eurozone, and Rajoy is pondering whether to ask for help from the
ECB to buy Spanish bonds.